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Mark Gray, CEO Telkwa Coal on the proposed Telkwa Coal Mine in northern BC.

Transcript Below:


Mark Gray, um, CEO Telco Coal. Okay, so what are the economic benefits of the proposed telco coal mine, I guess, um, at a, at a, at a micro level? Mm-hmm. . So at a, at a community level, the obvious things. , which is spring to mine Jobs.

Um, long term, sustainable employment. The, , current,  proposed mine has a mine life of about 22 years.  That can be extended within the existing,  deposit to an, you know, to another 15 years. So,  quite a significant, , mine life that creates long-term employment.  The generation obviously of discretionary income within bulky Valley.

 There will, for example, be something in the order of 163 full-time employees At peak production takes about two to three years to reach peak peak production. And on top of that,  you know, you could, I think, reliably double that number in relation to contract services and contract supplier. Also predominantly within  Valley.

So it will,  possibly ahead of,  government, be the, be the biggest employer here for a considerable period of time.  Then of course there are other taxes in the royalties, , to, you know, to, to the province,  to the federal government,  to local and regional governments as well

. And can you walk me through the impact on the community of Telkwa, if the mine is built on the proposed site as well?

So aside from economic, what other impacts will it have on the community? Um, and of course the community is wider than Telco, right? Well, the, the BC uh, province has an environmental assessment process, which you'll probably very aware of if, if not familiar with.

And, and that identifies,  many value components, within a particular, proposed project area, whatever the project may be. Forestry mining. Property, agriculture, it identifies value components, given the area.  And they vary widely. Uh, the obvious are, Um, water, noise, air, uh, fish, fish, habitat, wildlife,  terrestrial soils, and, and even social demographic.

And social economic, components as well. And then we, you know, we spend,  many years undertaking baseline studies of those value components. And, um, when we complete that, uh, our independent consultants, do an effects assessment on those VCs value components. And that forms the basis of our EA application.

Our EA    application is in a position to assess effects and impact. Yeah. On those value components.  

There has been some criticism, but there hasn't really been.  enough engagement with the community or that the community feels like they've had enough. Uh, adequate time to ask questions, share concerns, on the impacts of the proposed mine. So what are your plans now, especially that people can gather more safely to inform the public and feel like you're connecting with them?

I mean, it's a great question. Um, of course the environmental assessment process has, is regulated in terms of the level of engagement, with the local community and the nature of that engagement. So that is legislated.  And that is managed by the Environmental Assessment Office BC right now.

Um, over and above that, um, uh, we Telkwa Coal  um, you know, we established this office five years. , um, we have advertised its presence. Um, I mean, I moved here six years ago. Mm-hmm. , uh, the ceo, founder of the company. Uh, no better person to face the hard questions. Yeah. Um, and, and I've been doing that for more than five years.

Uh, we held several open houses ourselves, uh, when. Very first arrive. When we set up this office, we set up an, an open house to gauge general opinion. Uh, we hadn't worked out what the mine plan would look like. What it would be at scale of production. Um, we hit some ideas. Uh, we hadn't worked out where our transport route would be.

We hadn't actually even worked out, which.  in the telco coal field we were gonna develop because there are three. Um, and which one we would apply for an ea  um, so we got initial feedback, uh, from the local community, um, you know, where the hall roads might be, where the rail siding might be, um, and what even what the size of the.

Might be, you know, in terms of its,  annual production, you know, how many hundred thousand or million tons per annum would be produced. And off the back of that input, uh, you know, we gradually developed the mine plane that we have today, and that is the subject of the EA application. We have follow up open.

uh, and this is before we actually filed what we call a project description.  With the e a o. Um, we had another open house, uh, shared what we thought is what the project would look like, identified some of the, uh, takeaways that we took from community comment. , uh, and got feedback again.

So we've held three of our own during the course of, of the last five years. So I mean, as far as our own reach out, uh, outreach is concerned. Um, uh, we've, you know, we've gone way beyond what we're required at law to do. Mm-hmm. , uh, and, you know, I'm here available.  pretty much all the time.

So I sort of, I'm a little bit miffed,  when people say, you know, that there hasn't been much consultation and, and engagement. Like I said, I've, you know, we haven't met, uh, before, but, you know, I, I, I, I, I've been wandering the streets,  and a part of many aspects of the community for quite some.

What about, with what matters in our valley? How do you work with that group? 

So we're at a conference call with them today. , you know, we had a conversation today with, uh, specifically on caribou.

Yeah. There been questions and, we dialed in. Our caribou expert who's based in pg Kathy from EDI Consulting, and my chief operating officer was,  yesterday and today as well. . So, you know, what matters in the Valley, any other special interest groups?  Were available to them all the time.


I'm probably not the person, you know, getting to that level of detail and forgive me, you know, I just run the company. And I'm not, you know, dodging a question, but that level of technical  detail, I really do rely. On, you know, on my consultants and, and my technical staff. So forgive me, 

are they in the office? No. Um, Dan was the one that flew back to, um, oh. Vancouver today? To Vancouver. He's the chief operating Officer. Okay. Environmental, uh, manager. Uh, Ashley. Um, Ashley used to live here at Lake Thai, but, uh, her and um, and Cody have moved to Franco Lake.  They do all of our water monitoring for us. Okay. Um, but you know, that, um, you know, those sorts of questions with all of our consultants and we use a large number of the, uh, uh, skillset in Bulky Valley. Yeah. Um, to do, uh, our baseline studies and a lot of our monitoring.

Uh, and, and those people, you know, we. , um, you know, we, we have a, um, very op, very much open book policy. So anything, anything that they have gathered in terms of raw data, primary data, uh, is to be made available to the community and in any form of conversation or what have you. Okay, so, um, maybe this is something.

As the CEO that, you can speak on. So there have been mines in the region that have contaminated groundwater,  and it's leached into the surrounding environment. Some to mention are the, , t qua chief mine,  and then also the , small Mount Washington mine on Salem River. So I guess what is important, and, and worth discussing, 

so what I wanna know is if you can guarantee that this mine won't contaminate waterways and groundwater in the immediate area, and how you would be able to guarantee that what sort of science or who you're working with that can help guarantee. , um, few things in that question. Um, or questions. Um, the first thing is that, um, um, all of the information is available mm-hmm.

uh, in our EA application. , uh, on the, um, um, BC uh, E AO website, uh, it's a, it's a, it's a powerfully comprehensive document. Yeah. Uh, but all the baseline data and the effects assessment reports of our independent consultants is all there.  Um, so, um, that information is available. Um, we, you know, how do we guarantee, um, that, um, the mine will operate the way, uh, that, um, uh, we think it will.

Mm-hmm. , uh, you know, in terms of, um, The, uh, the quality of water discharged, um, you know, uh, and, um, surface water discharge, uh, back into the, into the system. Uh, well, we use best science. We use. Best engineering. We use, uh, the skills and, um, capabilities of, um, of reputable firms who do our mind design work and do our, uh, impact assessment work.

Um, and um, and then we subject ourselves to probably one of the most rigorous. Environmental assessment, um, processes globally in bc uh, highly regarded globally, uh, in terms of, uh, the way in which it, um, uh, manages the environmental assessment process for mining projects in particular. And it's even got more challenging with the new legislation.

Yeah. Um, so, you know, we go through that process, which the regulators. , um, require us to do so. Mm-hmm.  and, um, and if we get through it, uh, then, you know, that is, um, um, you know, reflects the, the capability of the application.  Okay. So in understanding, of course, that there is, um, rigorous assessment because I mean, it's undeniable that.

Currently approaching, if not deep inside of a climate crisis. And that, and coal frightens people. So when you're looking at the assessment also that the assessment, um, regulations and parameters did change and that there were prior, uh, prior to 2020 regulatory. Standards for for mines, and then it changed.

But, uh, that not all of telco coals were necessarily had to be compared to the newer standards. Um, so, and I know that you've chosen some such as the importance of water, uh, which is why I wanted to go back to that, but it, this mine has applied to discharge,  25 times. , selenium and heavy metals.

Um, then what would be proposed to be the safest? So I guess what my question is, why, why, why want to, or why apply to discharge more Selenium? Because of the old standards? Um, um, I, I mean, I need to, uh, reflect on what the water quality. , um, says that something off the top of my head. I know we have some exceedances mm-hmm.

and some, uh, trace elements including selenium. . Um, um, there are some, um, heavy metals, uh, which on baseline data exceed BC standards. , um, historically, um,  any mine application, um,

Has an exceedance of, um, a trace element, um, is assessed, uh, on the basis of its environment, um, because the, um, , uh, thresholds. Uh, the BC thresholds, uh, for trace elements are a standard set of numbers which apply across the province. Uh, yet, um, every area of the province is its own environment.

 As I said, there are already.  trace elements on baseline data, uh, in the, in the streams, uh, which exceed b bc thresholds, yet they have no impact on water quality, on, on, on fish habitat. I mean, they have been that way for, for centuries. Um, so ultimately, uh, where there are exceedances. , um, they're assessed on a site specific basis.

And, and you know, and that's an exercise that mm-hmm.  that we, uh, go through with the e a o, uh, in the review that we are currently in, we assess, uh, certain exceedances on a site specific and, and that and that, and that is really simply to.   Um, so typically, uh, mines, uh, be they coal or precious metals or, or whatever it might be, um, they, they all have a level of exceedance against the. Standard template. All right. Um, but you have to go through that site specific assessment.

We also, under the new act, um, and this was brought in, uh, look at, uh, best alternative technologies, uh, to, uh, mitigate any, uh, exceedances, which on a site specific basis are not. . And so that's some additional work that we have to do, uh, transitioning, uh, to this new legislation. Mm-hmm. , and that's spraying the loads before they leave.

Like is it, um, whatever water treatment technologies.  Um, you know, rather than considering. These technologies after the event, you know, when the mine's closed down, it's all too late. Well I guess it's never too late.  Cuz you can go back and rehabilitate potentially. But rather than do it at the end, you know, the new legislation says to proponents like ourselves, well we want you to consider this at the start.

Um, so that, that's, um, that's some new work which we have to do and we are working with, um, Um, er m and, and some other SK consultants on, on looking at the best alternative technologies to, uh, mitigate, uh, exceedances before. Um, yeah, and it may well be that one or some of that technology is a condition of our application.

 With all these rules and all these assessments and groups, reports, statistics, scientists, environmentalists, the environment, everything that's involved in this, why is this what you wanna do as a company, just like as the person, as a CEO of a co, of a core mine company? What is it that draws you to this?

Um, well, I mean, Let, let's, let's talk about the coal first. Sure. So me mm-hmm.  and, and my, um, my, my investors who, who came, came on this journey with me eight years ago. Uh, we believe in the long term demand for blast fairness, steel, um, that, you know, we, we believe in it and, um, uh, society.  simply cannot do without it.

Um, renewable energy cannot do without blast venous steel. Um, there are new technologies being developed, which, which will in the course of time, uh, replace co coal as the reducing agent of iron ore, um, such that it will no longer be necess. . Uh, but you know, in my view, uh, that is several decades away.

Mm-hmm. . Um, so we believe in that. Um, TOK coal is one of those coals which contributes to, um, the, um, you know, development of bla fairness steel. Mm-hmm. , it's located extremely close, um, to Prince Rupert. Yep. Uh, and Prince Rupert, uh, as a coal port is, is very close, uh, to, uh, Northeast Asia. Mm-hmm. , steel mills in Japan, and, um, uh, South Korea in particular.

So, so for me as a project, uh, it, um, it makes, um, it makes enormous.

 You know, location is important. Yeah.

Um, the geology of this deposit is very, very simple. . Um, it's, it's not, we're not mining in the Canadian Rockies mm-hmm. . Right. We're not up on the sides of mountain. Pushing, you know, waste rock off the edge of the mountain. It's relatively, you know, it has challenges because it's got lots of rivers and, and, and, and, you know, and the, um, has a world class steelhead fishing industry.

 You know, we understand that. Yeah. Um, and I.  y. Yeah, exactly. And I mean, you know, too, that that's what is so important and what is worth protecting is the natural beauty of a place, uh, like Telco, the bulky valley. I mean, so much of northern bc there's a reason that people want to come and have their vacations here because of the, you know, access to wildlife and scenery and all of that.

Um, , so Toco admits that it's tailing ponds, dams could put 200 lives in jeopardy in the event of a dam failure. Despite this risk, telco coal has not designed the dams to meet Canadian Dam Association standards for worst case earthquake and weather events.

Worst case. So at what point do you say that you've done enough to. , the Telco, river Aquatic life and, and wildlife of the surrounding area. Not to mention the people living in the area. So we don't have a tailing stand. Mm-hmm. . Alright. The, it's just, we, it's tailing dams are, uh, more associated with hard rock mining, uh, where, you know, where you have, um, noxious chemicals extracted from, um, uh, from the, uh, methology mm-hmm.

And they have to be locked. , uh, in a non discharge pond forever. Um, so we don't have that right. Um, but we have water management facilities. Um, we capture, uh, we capture surface water, which comes into contact with, uh, the waste rock cuz it's, it's the rock that.  is the, is the danger beast, not the coal.

 And when and when you mine it, uh, you, you know, and you expose, uh, that rock to oxygen. Mm-hmm. , um, uh, a a lot of the, um, heavy metals, as you mentioned, are released, um, now based, based on our water quality model.

Uh, we don't think that that will be to very high levels. And there are some exceeds against BC threshold, but as I discussed before, we're going through a site specific assessment. Um, we do have, uh, potentially, uh, some of our rock is potentially acid drainage. Yeah. So, uh, some of our rock and it's very clearly identified, it's about one third of all our waste material, um, is, um, high end sulfur and, and therefore once it's exposed, uh, it, um, uh, to oxygen has the potential to, to create acid.

Uh, and, um, our mine plan, uh, is, is centered really about, um, burying that material underwater, uh, before it has the opportunity, uh, to acidize to Okay. To, to, to, um, for the.  and, and the water to, uh, reach that pH level where it's acidized.   And, and, you know, and that, that, uh, material, uh, is, is, is contained in a wet environment.

It's covered with soil and, and there it remains forever in the course of time, uh, the acidity in that water will slowly, uh, um, at the pH level will just natural. , uh, get back to, uh, uh, a normal level. Mm-hmm. , uh, but that, you know, that takes a long time. Yeah. Um, I guess to what happens after, I mean, you know, you were talking about 22 years of the kinda lifespan of the project ort on 15 years of that.

So let's just say after 40 years, how is the mindset being maintained in order to make sure. The buried rock is still safe at the pH levels are balanced. Who maintains that? So, um, it's, it, it is, um, it's a natural, it's a natural process. The, the water table, um, the water table, uh, remains above, uh, where, um, where that, uh, pond is built and it remains.

but in the case of a drought, um, it's modeled, uh, in, I, I, I, I, I can't recall, but I think it's one in 300 year event. Is, is how it's modeled. Uh, not in a one in 100 year, but I think we model it in one and one in 300 a year event. Okay. I've taken up a lot of your time, so let's just finish with this.

If you. , would telco co agree to a open discussion with chosen scientists as well as scientists chosen from community organizations such as what matters in the Valley to have an open discussion, open forum that,  that people can come and listen to the discussions? Because I feel like people, some of the questions that I'm asking Yeah, I know.

They're in the environmental assessment, radio is a lottery and it accesses and is able to, people are able to,  and hopefully hear a voice, understand the reasoning or someone's argument for or against something like a coal mine would telco cool. Be interested or open to that. But um, no, we are open and available.

Mm-hmm. , um, every day. Yeah. You know, as long as I have reasonable notice mm-hmm. , I can organize my consult. To sit down with anyone. Mm-hmm. . Alright, now, now to, to, to participate in an open forum. I don't think that's a good idea. Mm-hmm. , um, generally because in in that environment, emotions ultimately take control.

Yeah. And it's, um, it's, it's not, you know, you, you're putting people at risk. Um, , you know, fiercely of abuse. Um, and, and then of course, emotional, uh, effect and impact, uh, by exposing certainly like our consultants, um, or, uh, or even my staff mm-hmm. , uh, to that environment. Mm-hmm.  and, and, and it's historically well known that an environment like that,  generally heads in that direction, wrongly or rightly.

Uh, so, you know, I won't subject my staff to that. Um, or our consultants, I wouldn't subject any human to that level of emotional risk.  Psychological risk. It's not healthy. However, I am here, you know, my CEO is here every month. Um, our staff, our consultants are a.  and, and, and they are today.

We had a scientific discussion with, with members of what matters in the Valley. I wasn't there. That's not my skillset. I know enough to be dangerous, but you know, I have other things to do within the company. Mm-hmm. , uh, and will we remain that? Will we remain that way? Mm-hmm. , thank you so much for your time today.

That's okay. My pleasure. 


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